saruja restaurant

The Door that Opens to Damascus Cuisine: Saruja Restaurant

Damascus, the capital of Syria has managed to keep existing during the Ottoman Reign for almost 400 years; this long running relationship has caused similarities between Turkish and Syrian cultures. One of the most important similarities being the cuisine culture. You can recognize the similarities as you check-out the menu of Saruja Restaurant specialized on Damascus delicacies and remember our comments.

Saruja Restaurant opened in Fatih district Istanbul offers an alternative of delicacies of Damascus to Syrian refugees, increased number of Arab tourists and Turks who have interest in oriental cuisine with the culture dating back to Ottoman times.  As a result of the increase in supply for Middle Eastern Cuisine several venues have opened providing the demand especially in Beyoglu, Fatih, Basaksehir, Beylikduzu districts of Istanbul. The district mainly known to be high in number of businesses is Fatih-Aksemsettin. We went to Saruja to discover the Middle Eastern Cuisine and had a chat on the food offered and cultural similarities as well as the homogeneous process with restaurant owner SifyahAlsmahiile.

Alsmahi informs that he decided to open his restaurant in Istanbul as it is a universal city, he continued to talk about Saruja,  “Turkish and Syrian cuisines are very much alike. This is among primary reasons for opening a place in Turkey. The ingredients to our food is bought from Turkey, we do not need to import it from Syria or any other Middle Eastern country, this is a very important advantage as well as an example of how much we are alike. Especially cig kofte (raw-ball), kubbeh and kebabs are almost exactly the same. The only difference is that we use lamb for kebabs. If we need to give a different example: both cuisines have stuffed grape leaf, the only difference being that we place lamb steak on top of the grape leaves, and we call the one done with olive oil  false stuffed grape leaf because we do not add meat in it. We have stuffed sausage, Mumbar with the same name as yours with one difference we use lamb while in Turkey calf is used. Other than that for cold dishes we use din roman and tamarind for hot dishes. As you know tamarind is an herb used widely in the Ottoman cuisine.”

There are about 20 chefs in the Saruja where they offer Middle Eastern and especially Damascus cuisine. The business that also helps the refugees who had to flee their home due to war, awaits your visit to try their delicacies in a venue at an easy to reach part of Istanbul. We should inform you ahead that there are no desserts in the menu at Saruja, but should you wish to enjoy dessert following your meal there are places to offer Middle Eastern dessert in Aksemsettin.

As we continue talking we are offered coffee, however the presentation is much different to what we are accustomed to. In Syria and especially Damascus coffee s presented in Turkish tea-glasses. When we see the double size coffee that we are not used to having, we are surprised. Another difference is the additional cardamom seed in the coffee. Finally it is important not to have a saucer.

Emigatory cuisines, the settlement of societies who are either displaced or emigrate on will, hanging on to life, developing the feeling of belonging to a congregation moreover provide them space to get together physically.

Sifyah Alsmahi who has been in the business for seven years started out as a cook. He informed us that all meals were named according to unique stories, Alsmahi said: “No food is named randomly; there is surely a reason behind it.”

*We suggest you try the cheese pitta in the menu, as the cheese is produced in theirown workshop. The cheese on the thin pitta is deliciously memorable.

*On Tuesdays they serve mumbar and buryani pilaf. On Friday and Saturday they have scoop pilaf.

By: Dilara Ozdes

*This article was  published in the  September – October issue of Marmara Life. 

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